Kansas’ “Hard 50” law allowed judges or juries to impose a life sentence without the eligibility of parole for 50 years, rather than 25, when one or more aggravating factors are present in a first-degree murder. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that impacted this “Hard 50” sentencing procedure in Kansas. The ruling, known as the Alleyne decision, requires a “Hard 50” sentence to be imposed by a jury, not a judge. The court created a scenario in which our harshest criminals could be put back on the streets. The governor called for a special session to consider legislation to keep these criminals behind bars.
There were about 30 Kansas cases that could have been impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision. The criminals serving the “Hard 50” sentences are among the worst in the state, and the potential of any of them being released posed a threat too great to ignore. Both chambers worked quickly and efficiently to coordinate with Derek Schmidt, Kansas attorney general, to pass legislation that would stop the possibility of any criminal being released because of the Supreme Court ruling.
House Bill 2002 passed unanimously out of each chamber, was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, and will become law Friday.
By law, the Senate is required to consider appointments the governor made during the interim. Between the close of business in June and Sept. 3, Brownback appointed 19 Kansans to various boards and positions, all requiring confirmation by the full Senate. These appointments included the first person to be confirmed to the Kansas Court of Appeals following a procedural change made by the Legislature during the 2013 session.
The model passed by the Legislature follows the federal process of nomination by the executive branch and confirmation by the Senate. For the first time since the bill became law, a judicial appointee was vetted in an open setting, a committee hearing, allowing the public to watch and listen to the deliberations.
We lost a member of the House Thursday, one day after the special session ended. State Rep. Ed Bideau, R-Chanute, died at his home. My prayers are with Bideau’s family.
Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, represents Franklin County and the 12th District in the Kansas Senate. Email her at Caryn.Tyson@senate.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6838.